The widely anticipated bill, the ‘Work Where You Want’ Act, has been rejected by the Dutch senate a year after it was passed by the Dutch parliament. The proposed law aimed to provide employees with more freedom in terms of where they could work within the EU, such as enhanced rights to work from home. Under the bill, employers would have had to grant employees’ requests to work remotely from home within the EU if, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the employer’s interests, according to the standards of reasonableness and fairness, must give way to the request.
Employment law expert Floor Hintzen of Pinsent Masons said: “If the bill was voted through, it could have had significant implications for the business operations of employers in the Netherlands. It would have become more difficult for employers to reject a request to work remotely from home. Especially if employees wanted to work abroad, it could have had far-reaching consequences, including Dutch employers having to consider and apply foreign employment law. There would have been tax and social security implications too.”
The senate's decision to reject the bill was the result of a close vote. The parliamentary parties opposing the bill argued that it was unnecessary, because employers and employees tended to resolve workplace issues collaboratively and current practice has not led to any significant court cases. There were also concerns about the potential regulatory burden that the proposed act could impose on employers.
According to Hintzen, following the rejection, the law on employees’ requests for change of workplace remain as it is under the current Flexible Working Act.
Under this legislation, employees working at a business with at least 10 staff can request a change of their workplace, which may include partial remote work, such as from home. They must be employed for at least six months by the employer on the date of the intended effective date for the new workplace to be eligible. The request must be made in writing and submitted at least two months prior to the intended effective date of the change.
Employers are obliged to consider the request and engage in consultation with the employee. The decision on the request must be communicated in writing no later than one month prior to the intended effective date of the change. In case of rejection, the employer must consult with the employee again. If an employer fails to make a timely decision, the requested change must be implemented in line with the employee's request.
If a request is made due to unforeseen circumstances, the requirement of six months’ employment is not applicable and shorter deadlines apply. Also, certain exceptions apply to the threshold of 10 employees. For example if the employee has a child that is younger than eight years of age.
“Despite the rejection of the ‘Work Where You Want’ Act, employers will still have to make a timely decision on requests for workplace adjustments from their employees in line with the Flexible Working Act,” said Hintzen. “Employers are recommended to consider the interests of both parties in their decision making, especially given that they must consult with the employee and provide the reasons for a rejection of the request in writing. In this context, it is advisable for employers to develop a clear vision on how hybrid working fits within their organisation, which can be further specified in a company policy.”